Connecticut Supreme Court Affirms $35M Award in Medical Malpractice Case

A Connecticut family was awarded $35 million following a negligently performed donor insemination procedure.

Ultrasound with pregnant patient

ByKandace Watkins, J.D.

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Published on March 19, 2024

Ultrasound with pregnant patient

The Background

On May 11, 2014, Jean-Marie Monroe-Lynch and her husband Aaron Lynch presented at the University of Connecticut Health Center’s Center for Advanced Reproductive Services (UConn) to undergo a therapeutic donor insemination procedure. During this procedure, Ms. Monroe-Lynch became pregnant with twins through the artificial insemination of an anonymous donor’s sperm.

Following the procedure, Ms. Monroe-Lynch received her prenatal care throughout her pregnancy at UConn. Approximately five weeks into her pregnancy, she went to the emergency room complaining of an abdominal rash and facial swelling. Based on her symptoms, Ms. Monroe-Lynch’s physicians classified her pregnancy as high-risk.

Twenty-two weeks into her pregnancy, Ms. Monroe-Lynch underwent an ultrasound that showed the twins had small heads and hyperechoic bowels, which were consistent with cytomegalovirus infection (CMV) infection. The physician did not inform Ms. Monroe-Lynch about those findings.

In January 2015, at approximately 37 weeks pregnant, Ms. Monroe-Lynch returned to UConn, where she was told one of her twins had died in utero. Summarily, the physicians at UConn delivered both twins via cesarean section. The autopsy of the deceased twin revealed that she died from a severe CMV infection. CMV is a herpes virus that can cause fetal death or severe birth defects during pregnancy. Unbeknownst to Ms. Monroe-Lynch, her anonymous sperm donor was a carrier for CMV.

The surviving twin, now 9 years old, requires lifelong care. He suffers from global developmental delay, cognitive deficits, hearing deficits, motor deficits, and autism. He cannot eat, communicate, walk, use the bathroom, or attend to any of his basic personal needs without assistance. He also suffers from seizures, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy.

In 2016, the Monroe-Lynch family, individually and on behalf of their son and daughter’s estate sued the state of Connecticut and UConn Health for negligent fertility treatment.

The Allegations

In April 2016, the Monroe-Lynch family, represented by Michael J. Walsh, Karolina A. Dowd, and Caitlyn S. Malcynsky of Walsh Woodard LLC, and James J. Healy of Cowdery Murphy & Healy LLC, filed a lawsuit in Hartford Judicial District of the Connecticut Superior Court alleging 19 counts including medical malpractice and negligent prenatal care. They argued that UConn

inseminated Ms. Monroe-Lynch with sperm from a CMV-positive donor in violation of medical and industry guidelines as well as UConn’s own protocols.

More specifically, they alleged that the donor insemination procedure failed to catch an anonymous donor's active CMV infection, which resulted in severe in-utero illnesses for the twins conceived through the procedure. According to the lawsuit, the physician who performed the donor insemination procedure did not check whether the donor was positive for CMV. Additionally, after Ms. Monroe Lynch’s ultrasound at 22 weeks where it was revealed that twins had small heads and hyperechoic bowels, which were consistent with cytomegalovirus infection (CMV) infection, the physician did not inform Ms. Monroe-Lynch about those findings nor did he perform any follow-up steps to rule out CMV infection.

Ms. Monroe-Lynch’s lawsuit further alleged that UConn did not properly obtain her consent regarding the risks associated with a CMV infection in violation of federal regulations that require a recipient to be notified of the donor's CMV status. Moreover, when Ms. Monroe-Lynch presented infection symptoms UConn’s physicians failed to perform follow-up tests.

The Trial and The Key Takeaway

In 2021, the matter was sent to trial before Judge Mark H. Taylor. The Monroe-Lynch family attorneys presented expert witness testimony in infertility, infectious disease, maternal-fetal medicine, economics, life care planning, and radiology. The defendants, UConn, represented by Jeffrey R. Babbin of Wiggin and Dana LLP, and Michael G. Rigg of Stockman O'Connor Connors PLLC, presented expert witness testimony in maternal-fetal medicine and infectious disease. After arguments from both sides, Judge Taylor entered a $36.6 million judgment in favor of the Monroe-Lynch family, with $24 million for economic damages and $13.5 million for non-economic damages of $13.5 million. The amount later was reduced to $34,619,799 at a hearing. Defendants appealed the trial court’s ruling and the matter was sent to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

On February 5, 2024, the Court published a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Joan K. Alexander affirming the trial court’s $34.6 million malpractice verdict against UConn. According to the Court, the trial court properly construed the case as a medical malpractice matter given that the injuries were traceable to the doctors' negligent care. The Court found that the defendants were the direct and proximate cause of the injuries because they created the pregnancy in a negligent fashion.

The Court’s holding recognizes that the principles of tort law apply equally to a person who is harmed by negligent assisted reproductive technology.

About the author

Kandace Watkins, J.D.

Kandace Watkins, J.D.

Kandace Watkins, J.D., is distinguished in the field of financial regulatory compliance, currently holding the position of Compliance Counsel II at SECU. She has previously served as the Assistant General Counsel at Self-Help Credit Union and was an Associate Attorney at Young Moore and Henderson, P.A. Her legal acumen was further developed through her role as a Judicial Law Clerk at the Supreme Court of North Carolina. Kandace's legal education includes a J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law and specialized training in International Human Rights at the Paris Summer Institute, a program of Cornell University Law School.